Monday, January 11, 2016

Stranger at the edge of the mirror.

I do not know about you, but sometimes, when I pass a mirror or a window, I catch a glimpse of a lady I do not know. Seriously, it is almost like a stranger passes into my vision.

Your stranger likely looks different, but mine is tall, with big green eyes, beautiful lips, and a smile that seems lit from within. A little heavy certainly, but really... And I think, "Oh, wow. Is that... No, is that me? I look...."

And then I stop and look closer... And vision clears. Nope, not beautiful... that lovely woman is replaced instantly with my real reflection. Bad hair, no make-up, heavy body, not-so-great outfit... Yep, that's what I really look like...

I do not know what I thought I saw, that lovely woman, but it was not me. This is me, flaws and all.

Ha-ha.Isn't it funny that our eyes can be so easily deceived? That we can be tricked into glimpsing beauty in someone whom we scarcely recognize as ourselves?

I saw her this morning, as I stepped out of the shower. Normally I avert my eyes from the mirror in that vulnerable state, I mean be honest, most of us do not want to see that.

But this morning, one of the freaking baby turtles that now lives in my bathroom (don't ask) drew my attention to the mirror's edge and I saw her. And I thought, "Wow, she looks not-so-bad!"

But, she flickered and was gone in an instant and I saw all my.... me.  And the thought that went through my mind was not, "She looks not-so-bad", it was more along the lines of, "Holy Hell. That is not cute" as I scrambled for a towel.

And I have been thinking about her ever since.

And I have been wondering: what if the lady I glimpse in the mirror is not, in fact, the fallacy?

What if the one that I see from the corner of my eye, with my open mind and heart, before the judgements fly up and the flaws loom large, what if she is the truth?

Maybe when she disappears, that is not my vision clearing but being undermined and... tarnished... by the ruthless voices inside my head?

I do not see that lovely lady often. But I do know that, this year, I am going to see if I can get her to linger a little longer.

Because somewhere between what we see and what we wish to see lies the truth. And I think I caught a glimpse this morning.

And it was lovely.

Here is to the strangers at the edges of all of our mirrors, and to getting to know them better.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Never Going to be a Supreme....

I cried the other day. I am listening to The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin, a truly amazing view into the Supreme Court. And I cried because I was never going to be a Supreme Court Justice.

In my car, I was driving down 93 at 4:45PM ( let's not talk about the fact that it takes me 45 minutes to get from my office to 93, ONE FREAKING MILE away), listening to this amazing book about this fascinating institution and crying over the fact that I was turning 42 and was never going to be a Supreme Court Justice...

"I'm 42, well I'm going to be 42 on Tuesday, and I am never going to be a Supreme Court Justice. Not Chief Justice, not one of the others, known for her witty but always enlightening opinions. I'm never going to sit in the conference room on Fridays and decide whether to join the majority or dissent. I will never have law clerks. What am I doing with my Life? And why in God's name did Robin Williams have to die? I miss knowing that Robin Williams is out there. I really think we could have been good friends. Now I am never going to be friends with Robin Williams."

My inner voice occasionally loses it. Completely. Because as I get older, I feel some doors closing. I mean, let's be honest. The Supreme Court one probably closed a long time ago. And to be honest, some of the justices got their seats in kinda icky ways. But, the point is true. As we get older, we make decisions, and Yes, Absolutely, those decisions close some doors. And that is hard.

Especially if you once had a different idea of what the future might hold. And if you feel that others expected more of you. Then it feels like a double dose of Focker. (I know it doesn't make sense, but I like it. And it's my birthday.

It’s like we carry these stones of expectation, of hurt feelings, of regret, and of anger. And they weigh us down.

And, I am so glad I have been practicing this art of noticing such things, because I immediately noticed that heaviness. And I pictured myself, carrying this heavy weight. I saw my arms full, I saw my back bent, I saw my head bowed.

And I decided to drop the stones. I remembered all I have accomplished, of the journey I have taken to get to where I am now. And I reminded myself that I have not come this far to pick up stones that just happened to be in the road. Especially not stones left by others. Those are not even MINE.

And I dropped them. One by one. “Expectations of others, real or imagined, I am putting you down. Expectations of self, formulated in a different time and place, I am not carrying you.”

And I stood up straight again. And I saw the path, which still spins out far in front of me, as far as I know. And I told myself that while Supreme Court was likely not going to happen, if I decided right now that what I wanted more than anything was to be a judge, I could do that. It would mean a major shift, but the option is there. In fact, there are many doors along this path that are still wide open.

When you are looking clearly at the path in front of you, you begin to see that there are shadowy branches that escape your notice in the everyday, because you are not looking for them. But there they are. But, if you are doubled over from the weight you have chosen to carry, you will miss them. If you only stare at the path under your feet, you’ll never see them.

I have been on this path for 42 years today. Many times the path was rocky. Tore at my soul and my soles. I was blessed with people who repaired my shoes, and gave me the strength to repair my spirit. Who sometimes, when I was not able to put those stones down, helped me carry them for a while.  Sometimes I look back at the path behind me, just to admire the mountains I have already summited. And to feel pride in the courage that brought me this far.

I have many miles ahead of me, with so many options and choices and such potential for great happiness. Yet, I know that there will be times that test me. There may even be moments when I need to sit beside the path for a while, to wait for my strength to return. I am blessed to know that there are those who will sit beside me and be my friend. I will not be alone.

I still miss Robin Williams. But maybe I could be BFF with Tina Fey instead. I think we would really hit it off, Tina and me.  And maybe I could get my friends to let me decide some of their arguments. Tina could write the dissent. It would be awesome. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

On a path to bliss.....

Over the past 3 years, I have made an enormous commitment to happiness…. My own happiness…  And over the course of that time, I have made significant internal changes that have transformed, literally, the way that I perceive and interact with both the world around me AND that pesky one in my own head.

I got tired of feeling anxious, of not being content, of feeling overwhelmed, upset, and wasting so much time and energy on circular, useless thinking. I am a parent, a wife, foster mom to over one hundred newborns over the past 14 years, and working full time. There is a lot to be overwhelmed by. Sometimes I felt like I could not handle it if one more thing went wrong, if one more person failed me. I was at the end of my rope. Basically all the time.

Now, most of us have felt this way at one point… or many points… I know I had, time and time again. And I have no idea why I chose this time to change. There was no “aha moment”. In fact, there was more of a slow dawning of understanding that I was 38 and it was time to take responsibility for my feelings.

Someone I know says something that still occasionally drives me crazy, but in fact, it is true. “I don’t make you feel anything, you choose to feel…..(insert feeling)”.

And I would think, damn you for not taking responsibility for the way you make me feel. And I would get all caught up in my reaction… MY REACTION. Mine. As in belonging to me. As in… under my control…

And maybe that was the point of no return. Once I accepted that I was in control, I choose what I dwell on, how I perceive people’s actions, and how I interact with the world, I was hooked.

And I was terrified, by that power.

And all this time, I had felt so exhaustingly powerless, so buffeted by the world, so overwhelmed by the things that were out of my control. When in fact, though most things outside me were out of my control, things inside me, my emotions and feelings, are not.

I started thinking, “wow…. I have wasted so much time.” And I started to think about all the time I spent worrying about things that never happened, that were not happening to me, that were not under my control. And I started to get caught up in feeling sad about that.

And then I thought, “What the Hell? This is it. This is exactly how it happens, this spiral that I do not even notice myself entering. THIS is what I can control. And I am done with it.”
I read a bunch of books on mindfulness, happiness, awareness, and joy. None of them had all the answers, but I got something from each of them. And I became more certain that I could do this.

I could choose to live happily.

I told almost no one. I was not sure how this was going to work, or how long it would take. It was, and is, a “work in progress”.

I made up some rules.

One important one was to not allow repetitive anxious thinking to take over my brain. I had to find a way to stop the looping. And one night I thought, I wish that there was something I could wear that would remind me to look inwardly on a regular basis, giving me a chance to interrupt negative or fruitless thinking, examining it and replacing it.

I looked long and hard, I even contacted some folks at MIT and other places, looking to invent something that would vibrate on a regular pattern, which was simple and required no adjusting or fiddling. After a search, I found it. It is called a Pause Bracelet. It is from a website called, I bought three and have given away two and the other one finally died, and it is time to get another, because this bracelet was the first tool in the building of a new life.

Because in order to stop the fruitless thinking, I had to realize I was doing it. And when you have lived for so long with negative loops in your mind, it feels natural and you do not even notice yourself doing it, even as it drains your joy and debilitates your spirit. I needed emotional biofeedback. The bracelet forced me to stop every hour and assess how I was feeling and it gave me a chance to reset my brain. My eternal gratitude to the creators.

I was amazed at how often I was in the middle of a negative/painful thought or circular worrying when that gentle vibration stopped me. I began asking myself some questions about my thoughts, or more clearly, the subject of my thoughts:

Are they useful? Is there something I can do about the thing I am worrying about? Have I done everything I can currently? Is it happening to me? Will it matter in an hour? By this evening? Tomorrow? Was it intentional? And again, Is this thought process useful, productive, fruitful?

It was stunning how often it was not… It was just a waste of precious energy, it made me feel awful, and it skewed my perception of the world so severely that would require significant effort to reorient myself.

It was a process of catching every negative thought and finding ways to turn them positive. It felt idiotic at first, even in my own skull: “hmm, self, it seems like you are getting angry because we are waiting in a bank line. Is that useful? No. So, let’s reframe:   We are blessed to have money in the bank, we are blessed to be healthy and strong enough to stand here in line, we are blessed that the teller is using so much patience to help that elderly woman fill out her deposit slip.” (I find that self-talk if more effective for me when I address myself as a separate entity, I am sadly gentler with that separate entity than with myself, if that makes sense.) And, although I use the term “blessed” over and over again, I do not link it necessarily with religion. I mean blessed as in fortunate, lucky, gifted with. And I also give myself credit for a lot of hard work. Because I deserve my blessings, I have worked hard. But, there are others who have worked hard and not been so lucky. So, blessed.

And over time, it worked. I began to catch myself before the cycle began, and I got much better at identifying moments when practicing gratitude could head off fruitless thinking before it began.
And I noticed something: my baseline feeling was beginning to be “content”. One dictionary defines that as, “in a state of peaceful happiness”. And it was, and is, amazing. I began to hear myself thinking of how blessed I was when I saw sorrow, anger, trauma. I recognize the simple pleasures of safety, security, love, and peace.

Over the course of a year or so, I realized that although I was still experiencing ups and downs (I was working on gratitude, not lasering away vast quantities of brain tissue) I was generally happy, able to identify my feelings and act on them, and deeply enjoying my life.

And things in my life improved: I got a new and better job, my marriage improved, my communication with friends, and I became a far better parent. Because I was operating in a more realistic emotional environment, one that recognized the true extent of the blessings and challenges I faced, and one that had a far higher foundation than I had ever experienced. Being grateful and content the vast majority of the time simply does not draw upon your strength in the way that negativity does. And so, when real problems come along, I have more energy available to deal with them.

I am stronger now than ever before. It is not a matter of, “Oh My God, now I have to deal with this as well, and I am already overwhelmed, upset, and hurting. This is it, this is all I can take.”  It is facing challenges with the understanding that I am blessed with many tools and that while yes, bad, even terrible, things happen, I have what I need to get through them, and I have many friends who will be right there with me when I need more. My supply of strength, when thought of that way, is virtually limitless.

How Powerful is that?

So, now I am working on Bliss… and on recognition of those perfect moments and remarking upon them, capturing them internally and using them to fuel my spirit. I am working on actually stopping myself physically and telling myself, “This. Enjoy this. Remember this.”   I have at least one most days, of various magnitudes. 

I woke at the home of beloved friends last weekend and heard my son laughing with them. I saw an extraordinary dahlia and decided that dahlias are my favorite flowers, they are strong and yet so beautiful, with nothing fragile about them. Last night Max fell asleep, our 9 week old foster baby fell was cuddled on my chest, and my husband was working on a paper for his last week of classes in pursuit of his masters. I had a cup of tea. And a book. And it was bliss.

And this morning my boy, my five year old miracle, Max Archer, King of All the Wild Things, cuddled into my body 30 minutes before I had to get up. And he fit perfectly, his body pressed into me, warm and soft and relaxed. And I was aware of this extraordinary ordinary moment of pure joy... 

And even more grateful to have been open to recognizing it, for being aware.

It took me a long time to get to this point in my journey, and I am still on the path. However, these precious moments give me great strength. And flashes of bliss.

I am on a journey to Bliss.. Join me….The path is not  smooth but it is beautiful...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Do Not Wish You Were Here- A letter to my mom, on the 19th anniversary of her death.

19 years….  It’s a long time, Mom…. So much has changed… Let’s see,   you’d love cell phones.  Seriously… The idea of being able to connect at any time with your daughters, and now two magnificent grandsons, would be like magic of the best sort to you. And once you got a computer,  the internet would never be the same… I wonder if you’d blog? It would likely be a fascinating read.. Scary, but never boring.

It is an odd way to start this letter to you, but it feels right. You were an amazing, intense, damaged, and loving woman.  All the best parts of me are from you: my intelligence, sense of humor, love of reading, nurturing heart…  Thank You

You went through hell… and yes, you took me with you… and Faith… Some of my most vivid memories are terrible ones, ones where the police are dragging you away, where your voice rings in my ears; angry, raw, and slightly unhinged.

However, they are more than balanced out by lovely, if bittersweet, moments. Christmas’ when, despite the being in depths of depression, you dragged yourself to Caldors (anyone else remember Caldors?) and brought back a few gifts, placing them in their plastic beige and brown bags under a Charlie Brown Tree.

When you sang silly songs, and danced. When we all cuddled up in your bed and watched TV. When you told me, over and over, that I was beautiful, that I was smart, that I was an amazing singer, and that you were so proud of me…

So Proud.

You spent a lot of time in hospitals… Treatment centers, really. And Faith, your other treasured daughter, once asked me, “Doesn’t freak you out that everyone in the mental hospital knows everything about you?”

Yes, when we entered the treatment centers to visit, people would always ask, “And which one of you is the singer? And which one of you is the horseback rider? Your mom sure is proud of you girls.”

You once told me that we were the only thing you ever did right, your only successes.

And it showed, the love and pride you took in us showed. And, despite all the odds, we are doing great, Mom. God, I hope you made sure she knows I got into Harvard. If heaven was really like that community of folks just hanging out on clouds then I bet a whole bunch of the other denizens were like, “Yes, Kathleen, we know. We all know… Your daughter got into Harvard. For heres sake, enough.”

And I hope you see Faith. She is working so hard, to take care of herself finally and to make sure that her son has a life that brings him a far easier entry into the world than she and I had. Don’t feel bad about that. It is what kids are supposed to do: take the best parts of their growing up and improve on the rest. I am not going to lie; it took both of us a long time to get to this point. There was some… stuff to get past. And it took work.  And takes work.

And I hope you see these boys. My heart breaks to think that these boys will never know you. You would have been the most amazing grandmother. In fact, you would have taught these boys what it is to be completely adored by someone whose only job is to build you up, support you, and enjoy you. Max, who sometimes sees a world we do not see, told me once that he talked to you. He came into the bathroom where I was showering and said, “Mama, my gramma is here. My dead gramma, Katty. Come and see her.”

In my haste to get out of the shower it is a miracle I did not join you in heaven, but I made it to the living room and Max looked at the couch and said, “Oh. Oh, she’s gone mama.  She said she would stay. She said she was your mama and she was dead and that she loved me. She’ll be back.”  

Watch over our boys, Jacob and Max Archer.

You always, always said you would be back after you died. “When you look everywhere for your keys and find them someplace you know you already looked, that will be me.” And you’d laugh and laugh.

You would be so happy if you were here now…

Well, that’s probably a lie. A big fat untruth that sounds great, but that everyone who rode the roller coaster ride of Kathleen, Faith, and Charity knows I am creating out of whole cloth.

You would likely be very sad, very sick, and in reality, caring for you would have changed my life and Faith’s life dramatically. Mental illness and addiction were your vicious, unrelenting, and ultimately deadly foes. And this is not a fairy tale. And most of the time in real life the happy ending is brutally elusive.

And so, although I miss you like crazy, and I would give up a lot to be able to see you with your grandchildren, I do not wish you were here.   You suffered enough. We suffered enough. I was so sad for such a long time after you died, it lasts until this day and will for as long as I live, but I do not miss the reality of you. I miss the best parts of you, the parts that for the most part died a while before your body. Those are the pieces of you that I hold close to my heart, the stories that I have begun telling your grandson, the moments that make me smile and shake my head, and the parts that I bring into my own parenting. The parts that I know were the true you, before the beasts got you and dragged you down.

Your Death was not a tragedy. Your Life, eaten up by addiction and mental illness, was the tragedy.

I hope I see you again, Mom. I long to hug you and to cuddle up to you. I’d like to sit beside you and watch Max grow after I die, as hard as that is to contemplate, and kvell over him.

I miss you, I love you, and I do not wish you were here. And that is the most loving thing I can think of to say.  It is okay that you left us. It was time. You had no more good left to give us and a lifetime of pain for all of us lay ahead. It was time for you to go. And in my heart I know you chose to leave. 
And that’s okay too.

Nineteen years today since I got that terrible phone call. Since my beloved friends and Faith’s amazing crew came together to create a funeral. Did you see the reception after the funeral? Did you notice that the girls, who loved you too, Faith’s friends, desperately wanting to do something, offered to go buy the food? Did you notice the chips and dip, cookies, and soda? I know you laughed.

Did you see me fall into the ocean while illegally scattering your ashes off the rocks in Stonington CT? Did you see me, in my business suit and heels, duck under the water over and over trying to get your remains off of me in the freezing cold sea? Linda and I KNOW you were there. We cried with laughter. Then we cried.

Stay near Faith, Mom. Remind her to care for her body and spirit, to do better than you did. Remind her that Life is short and precious and is to be enjoyed.

Stay near me, Mom. Help me to find my way, to move forward, and to stay on my path.

Nineteen Years.

I love you. I miss you. And, truly, I do not wish you were here.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

The end of Ponsahwannatime....

Where has the time gone? I am, like so many of my friends, am looking towards the first day of kindergarten with a mixture of pride and trepidation unlike anything I have felt before.

This particular 5 year old who bears the name Max Archer, and answers to George for Curious George, and has glorious blue eyes and a reptile fascination and a constantly running mind and mouth is heading into Big Boy School.

So many others are as well. But, this one is mine. He has occupied the core of my being for more than 5 years, since the very early days when he actually occupied the core of my being, as a matter of fact.

And oddly, though he has attended daycare and preschool, this feels like a very big step away…
I keep saying, “He won’t be all MINE anymore. I won’t be able to just pick him up early, take a day off with him, and get the teachers in his tiny, loving, brilliant preschool to change things, tweak things a bit for him.”

(My husband reminds me that I rarely am able to just pick him up early or keep him home now, BUT I could, and that’s the difference.) (It’s that whole, “But we won’t be able to just up and go to Paris for the weekend” thing Redux)

Thank God there is no uniform. Not being able to dress him in cozy, soft fabrics with images of the things that he loves might push me over the edge.

I feel like I work to be conscious and present and experience every moment, knowing that they are ephemeral. However, so many last times have passed without notice, until, of course, you notice that they are gone.

I am far from the first mother, writer, or observer of life to notice this… By far…

But that in no way lessens the power and impact the realization has had on me.

Max Archer nursed for a very long time. And yet, I cannot remember that final time, even as I sit here weeping over the loss.

I cannot remember the final time that I wrapped him to my body, or to my hip in a sling, or to my back. I can carry him for shirt distances now, but even that is glimmering its final moments.

For a long while now, we tell stories in the car, Max and me, especially in the mornings on the way to school.

“Max, tell me a story…”
“OK……Ponsahwannatime there was a little boy….” And off we go. There are oceans, and snakes, and sharks, and all them interact and battle and thrive within the mind of the boy in my back seat.

Ponsahwannatime is his own interpretation of the far too complex “Once upon a time” that began so many of the stories I read to him and told to him as he grew.

And in all honesty, I never, ever heard the first words of any story he told after that phrase, so overwhelmed with love was I by that mispronunciation that betrayed his innocence and youth, even as the dramatis personae got bigger and stronger and, yes,  more violent….

Ponsahwannatime was my reassurance that my little boy was still…. Little…

However, a few weeks ago, Max started to tell me in a story in the car. And it began: “Once upon a time”.

My heart stopped… Not literally, but it definitely clenched and hurt for a big moment.

Ponsahwannatime was gone. Gone. The story that followed this new beginning was, as always, fascinating and funny, though one is not allowed to laugh, as the humor is almost never intentional, as with the recent addition of a recurring character with a helmet that is called, “Mr. Horny”.

And when the story was over, he said, “The End.”

And it was.

And I am really going to miss Ponsahwannatime stories. And I cannot for the life of me remember when that last time I heard one was. Because there was no announcement, “this is the last time…” Because there almost never is.

Saturday morning, as we drove downtown, Max told me a story inspired by Shark Week. It had adventure, science, and lots of danger. It began with “Once Upon a Time” and it was great.

I am sad about the ending of so many things that I associate with this boy’s babyhood. And I reserve the right to miss them. I will be the mommy weeping at the kindergarten drop off on the first day. And the first date…. And the first dance…

However, I am trying to remind myself that all the best stories I have ever known have begun with “Once Upon A Time”.

And that “Once Upon a Time”  is the first line of every single story I've ever heard that ends with, “and they lived happily ever after….”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How are you? how you answer actually means something.....

(warning, this is a preachy blog post... I wrote it to get it all on paper, and I am sharing it because there maybe a nugget that might help someone else on the journey.. however, you've been warned.)
I’m overwhelmed

I’m so stressed

I’m tired

I’m crazed

I’m at wits end

I’m angry at, with, about, because….

I am going to be honest here. And this is not about any one person, interaction, or situation. I neet up with a lot of people who either need to really change the way they are living their life or really change the way they are perceiving their life.

I am extraordinarily happy and blessed. Yes, I have my off hours, even days, but over the past 3 years I have been on a mission to dramatically increase the amount of time I spend being happy. I realized about then that I was living my life in a state of discontent… AND I HAD VERY LITTLE TO BE DISCONTENT ABOUT. Sorry for shouting, but it was truly a life altering moment when I realized how much of my time I spent:

  • worrying about things that never happened
  • worrying about things that I had no control over or that I had already impacted as much as I could
  • worrying about things that I could impact but had not done so
  • worrying about people who had managed to live without me until that point and did not seem all that interested in my help
  • being hurt by, upset by, or angry at people who either A. did not care if I was hurt, upset, or angry or B. had not meant to hurt, upset, or anger me, or C. did not know that I was hurt, upset, or angered
  • living in the past
  • living in the future
  • etc. etc. etc.

I love being alive. I love interacting with humans, I freaking adore my child and husband, and I am blessed with skills and talents that I use every day to help others and myself. I have enough money for my needs and many of my wants, I am healthy and have the power to get healthier, I am surrounded by people who love me, who care about me, who would help me in times of need or sorrow without question or expectation of return of service (although I am also blessed to be able to serve them in return).

Blessed… I used that work recently and someone emailed me to say that they were not aware that I had become religious. I do not use it in a religious sense… I use it in the sense that of being

3. divinely or supremely favored; fortunate:  to be blessed with a strong, healthy body; blessed with an ability to find friends.



blissfully happy or contented.


Now, I can get all tripped up by that Divinely or Supremely Favored thing… (I typed “flavored” there at first, LOL) However, I am completely aware that I have had privileges and advantages that others have not. And I am grateful. Very, Very, Very grateful.  Accidents of birth, of fate, of time and place have all combined to lead me to where and who I am. And I have already made pretty clear that I am happy with that.  I even used to spend time being so sad that others had not had the advantages I had… Or had not been able to use them as well for whatever reason.

A few years ago now,  I got very, very sad… for a long time… for day after day, I was just angry and unhappy, and stopped communicating with the people around me, and stopped moving forward in my career, in my marriage, in my life.  it was an internal struggle, but one that exhausted me daily. And, bear with me, this is where it gets odd, then I heard a voice… Not like a voice from the outside but one from the inside. And it asked, “Is this how you want to feel for the Rest of your Life?”

Rest of my Life? Every single day like this? No… God no…. Fuck no….

So, and I want to say right here that I was not clinically depressed, I had the capacity to make these changes in a way that someone who is dealing with clinical depression may not, likely will not, be able to make without expert help and support, I made plan to change.

The beginning of that plan was to acknowledge that the genetics that gave me a fabulous singing voice, the gift of witty repartee, and very little need for sleep also gave me a predisposition to anxiety and depression that is amenable to treatment with some miraculous medications.

So, I found a great doctor, and I explained to her that I did not feel like I needed therapy, that I had done a lot of that hard work in the past and was deeply aware of how important it was in allowing me to get to the point where I was. I needed to alter the chemical imbalance in my brain that was impacting my ability to deal with anxiety appropriately. And we tried a few things…

The first one was not a winner… I will never, ever, ever forget the moment when I thought, “Oh, this must be what they mean when they warn, ‘may cause suicidal thoughts’” and then thought, “OH. Crap. I should probably call the doctor.” The next one was a winner.

And I felt better.

Then, I started exercising.  And made bets, promised myself rewards, and got excited about progress to get myself to the gym on a regular basis…

And I felt better…

And I started consciously working at being grateful. As I fell asleep each night, I listed three things that I had been grateful for that day.

And I felt better.

I bought a bracelet that vibrated every 45 minutes at (I’d love to design one that we could set the time frame according to our needs, but no luck yet) and it reminded me to check in with myself, to assess my mood and my activities, and  everytime I started stressing, ruminating, or worrying about something, I forced myself to ask three questions:

-Is this a real issue or concern? What are the chances you will actually have to face and deal with it?

-Is there anything you can do right now to positively impact this situation?

-Are you actively making plans for positively impacting this situation or just picking at it like a scab?

Almost every time, I was able to tell myself to let it go. (before that evil song came out)

And I felt better.

Then I decided to Look Back only for Courage, Knowledge, or Joy. Anytime I started thinking about the past, I stopped myself and made certain that I was gaining something from doing so. Courage: I did not have an easy childhood. My mother was mentally ill and addicted, and sad and angry. She was also the funniest and most loving person I have ever known. My mother adored my sister and I and we knew it. However, many people who grew up as I did do not become happy, healthy adults. SO, I look back for courage and to rejoice in how far I have come. For knowledge, to see if I can learn from the past, to make the future better, and for joy… There were many, many moments of joy in my youth. Those I had onstage and off with my dear friends from chorus, and those with my mother, whose crazy sometimes took on a frenetic and exciting edge that made life very… interesting.

And I felt better.

Then I gave myself permission to be enough…. I am enough. I am doing enough, I am giving enough, I am trying enough. I am enough. Oh My Goodness… That one was Life Altering. Capital L. and A.  Try it…. You are Enough. Whatever you got done today was enough. You are Enough.

And I felt better.

Then I reminded myself that, according to many rumors, we only go around this time, in this body, with these people, ONCE. And my goodness, you guys are AMAZEBALLS. (Thank you Jen Starr, who is herself amazeballs, for the term). I so want to spend time with you, enjoy you, learn from and with you. I am not wasting any more time. Max Archer, Bill Lewitt, Faith Small, Jacob. And all of the other wonderous and awesome people in my life, I am so grateful for you.

And I felt better.

So, do I feel perfect all the time? Do I never feel sad, never feel anxious, never feel hurt, angry, betrayed? Of course not… I am still human… (Though Max’s fascination with DNA does not make that a given forever)

However, I am in control of how I feel, how I respond, how I interpret, perceive, and impact LIFE and the world around me….

I am incredibly Powerful. And that, my dear friends, is what I guess I am trying to share… You are so amazing and powerful. You decide how you go through this Life. Yes, there will be obstacles, and sorrows, and losses almost too large to bear. But, you will bear them.

And if you are reading this, if you are on facebook, or google, or a computer, if you are not in a hospital, not in a war, if you have reason to believe that tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow you will be given another chance to do good, for yourself and others, than you too are blessed…

Because until we die, we are alive… together…

So, if someone asks you how you are, by all means, if you are tired, stressed, whatever, take a moment to own that. But if you are always stressed, tired angry, overwhelmed, disappointed in yourself or others, maybe it is time to reframe. To rethink. To change the way you are living your life or the way you are perceiving it.

I am so incredibly grateful that I am on this journey, that I can honestly say that the majority of the time when someone asks me how I am I can honestly say, "happy."

I am blessed…..

You are blessed…

We are blessed…..

Monday, July 21, 2014

the last time I stood here...

one of the things that I often find myself doing is, as I move through the city I have called home for nearly 20 years now (eek!) is to think about all the other moments I stood in that precise spot, where I was, what I was doing, and how I felt...

It is always fascinating to me to look at a sidewalk square and think about other moments when I crossed exactly the same spot, how I felt and where I was going and who I was in that place, in that time....

Every single time I ride the Orange Line, I am filled by a very visceral memory of the day I rode a train into the Mass Ave Station, at the age of 17, to audition for the New England Conservatory of Music. Walking up those steps in the black skirt and white shirt I had worn to sing in every choir concert in High School, walking slowly so as not to get winded and breathe in too much of the icy air before i had to sing. The feeling of fear and hope is incredibly real to me even now as I think of that 17 year old girl who knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that anything less than perfection would not be enough to get her out of her home, a place of sorrow, anger, and loss, and into a new life...

Every single time I cross over Commonwealth Ave just after the Fenway T stop, I think about the day I walked there with a tiny bundle in my arms, carrying my first foster baby, a 4 pound newborn, on my way to a meeting...

Every time I drive past the Emergency Room at Boston Medical Center, I remember the day that my then boyfriend (now husband) swung his SUV into a spot marked "Emergency Vehicles Only" and we rushed into the lobby, only to be directed into a tiny side room where we were, after a long hour, told that our beloved foster child had died of SIDS at the babysitter's house.

Every time I pass the Dunkin Donuts on Route Nine, near the Chestnut Hill Mall, I recall the visceral fear that gripped me when our Reproductive Endocrinologist called to tell us that the IVF egg retrieval we had done would be our last try... And that he doubted it would work...

Every time I go to the Trader Joes in Brookline, I remember being there on New Years Eve, December 31, 2008, and literally floating through the crowds on the news that the miracle baby I carried inside me was a boy... A healthy baby boy.

It is fascinating to me that, each time I cross my own path, I am a different person, in the same place, at a different time.

Sometimes the last time I stood here was sadder, and sometimes happier...

However, with each retreading of steps, I know that I have survived to stand again in this same place. Older, and hopefully wiser, than the me who stood here before. And with no idea what will happen before I stand there again...